Update on running thesession.org

Update on running thesession.org

Hi all,

About a year and a half ago I posted some info on the costs involved in running this site:

https://thesession.org/discussions/37657

I thought it would be a good idea to give you an update on those numbers…

The cost of newsletter mailouts (through Mailchimp) has gone up a bit (it’s proportional to the number of subscribers), but the cost of having a secure certificate has gone down from $20 a year to zero, thanks to https://letsencrypt.org/

Here are the updated monthly costs:

$48 Hosting and backups with https://www.digitalocean.com/
$75 Email newsletter with http://mailchimp.com/
$ 8 DNS management with https://dnsimple.com
$ 9 Email account with https://www.fastmail.com/
$ 7 Version control with https://github.com/
$ 0 Secure certificate with https://letsencrypt.org/
——
$147 total monthly running costs

That’s up a little bit from last time when I said the costs were between $120 and $140

The good news is that your donations are really helping to cover the cost. It’s a bit up and down, but on the whole, it balances out nicely. For instance, the donations from September and October were less than $147 each, but the donations from November and December were above $147 each.

One thing that helps mitigate the uncertainty around donations is the option to give a recurring monthly donation. Thank you very much to everyone doing that—it really helps to balance the books. What’s especially nice is that some of the services listed above let me pay directly via PayPal so your donations are going straight to the running of the site.

I cannot overstate how grateful I am for all of your donations towards the upkeep of thesession.org—I really, really appreciate it.

I’ve set up a separate page for donating (and put a link in the footer):

https://thesession.org/donate

But if you can’t afford to make a donation, that’s absolutely fine. Like I said last time:

"All donations are gratefully received, but if you’re not in a position to give a donation, don’t worry about it: every time you add a new tune setting, or keep a session listing up to date, or add new information to a recording, you are keeping this site going strong."

Thank you all very much!

Re: Update on running thesession.org

:) Thank you so much for this site Jeremy, you are the best! Have a fabulous and prosperous 2017!

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yes this site is unique - theres nowhere else you could go to find such a range of advice and information
on playing traditional music and learning tunes. Thanks Jeremy.

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Many thanks for all your efforts, Jeremy. Here’s to a rollicking new year of tunes and discussions!

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Is the email newsletter necessary? I don’t even think I receive that myself. Your costs would go down more than 50% if that were deemed unnecessary.
Cheers!

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I concur with John Kacur.

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When I first saw the numbers I thought the same - the newsletter isn’t much use to the regulars who are here often enough to know what’s going on. But where I guess it is useful and beneficial to the site is for keeping touch with casual visitors and bringing them back to the site.

Though I’m surprised it needs mailchimp (and by how much they charge). Given that members’ email addresses and all the info for the newsletter are already in the database I wouldn’t have thought it would be very difficult to write a short script that pulls the relevant data and mails it directly. Perhaps the volume of emails that need to be sent makes that un-viable. At first glance the hosting cost looks high too, but that is probably down to the high bandwidth it must use, I know a lot of people check in several times per day, and others spend many hours searching through the tunes database.

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Reading what the previous 3 folks wrote…is there a way to determine it’s value vs expense? I never come here via the newsletter. I have this site as an automatic tab and check when I want to. Just thinking about it…

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It’s true enough that the Mailchimp costs are pretty high, but I’ve looked into the competitors and they’re more expensive.

Yes, I do have all the email addresses in the database here, but no, setting up a mail server and sending out thousands of emails at once is not a trivial matter at all.

And while it might be tempting to ditch the newsletter to save on costs, I know that lots and lots of people really rely on it as their weekly lifeline to The Session.

The hosting costs are for 4GB of memory and 60GB of disk space ($40 a month) plus weekly backups ($8 a month).

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Is there any way to send the newsletter information out in a different format; one which is already being used for similar purposes? I know the check box to receive email updates is in my profile when I update the details;
but I never felt the urge to check it. In this day and age receiving more emails (in whichever email address
I have registered here) on a weekly basis is just not as sexy as it might have been when I was a newbie.
Does the newletter have the same information as your Twitter, Jeremy?

https://twitter.com/sessionupdates?lang=en

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Re: Update on running thesession.org

I agree that the email is unnecessary (IMHO). The same info could be obtained by logging on to Twitter and browsing through the posts to see if you have missed something. If that doesn’t have all the info then maybe it could be expanded to fulfill the role.
Another option is to have a "Summary" button on the Home page that gets updated once a week and when you click on that you get the same info as the email.
And Jeremy thanks for the Resource and a Happy New Year.

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I think the "Summary" option would be very reasonable replacement for newsletters if the choice comes to that. I know it’s not terribly difficult to automate access to it from the user perspective.

I think the Twitter option would not be reasonable simply because some of us do not use or favor social media services like Twitter or Facebook.

If there was a need to reduce email costs, a request could be made to have members that don’t rely on emails to delete that option in the "Edit your details" page of the member profile.

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Jeremy, one of the thing’s that has stopped me from making a permanent donation is that i have no choice but to do it in U.S.dollars, and I live in Australia. I am not scrounge or anything. I make monthly donations to a charity, but being a pensioner, I like to know exactly what will leave my bank account every month, and last time I committed myself to monthly donations, the U.S Dollar just kept fluctuating in a scary way and I withdrew. I will probably restrict myself to annual donations. Whatever, I do believe that it’s only right to pay our dues for this great site.

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To everyone saying that the weekly newsletter isn’t useful or necessary to them; that’s great—you don’t need to subscribe to it.

But please believe me when I say that it is *very* useful and *very* necessary to thousands of other people who aren’t you. Please try to consider those people rather than simply suggesting the newsletter should be ditched as a cost-cutting measure. Please try to have some empathy for people who don’t use this site the same way that you do.

The newsletter stays. And frankly, as I said above, $75 a month is pretty reasonable considering the size of the subscriber base.

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Lose the newsletter - that’s an unreasonable expense. $900/year? Wow. Besides, many email hosts assume MailChimp is spam & block it unless whitelisted by the user. The idea of a Summary/Update viewable on thesession.org site itself would be fine. Access can be public (to inform/encourage infrequent visitors), or restricted to logged-in members if desired.

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kkrell, please read what I just wrote.

The newsletter stays. If you think it’s an unreasonable expense, that’s fine. You don’t have to pay for it.

But please don’t be so callous in dismissing something just because you personally don’t see the value of it.

Perhaps I wasn’t clear about why I started this discussion:

I wanted to give an update on the expenses involved in running this site so that anybody choosing to donate would know exactly where their money was going.

I was *not* looking for suggestions on gutting entire swathes of functionality that, for some people, is the most important part of the site.

If you disagree with the way that the donations are being spent on the running of the site, that’s perfectly okay—you don’t have to donate. But please stop suggesting that your own opinion and your own experience of the site should be universally applied to everyone.

People use The Session in different ways—some visit the site daily, some get updates on Facebook, some get the weekly newsletter, some use a mixture. There is no one correct way to access The Session.

Please stop treating an end-of-year overview of costs as an invitation to narrow the ways that people are allowed use this website.

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Jeremy, 1st of all, I was drafting my message and did not see your post during that time.

While I initially agreed with a few of the other posters regarding the newsletter, that’s it. No need to be so harsh about my opinion. I’m hoping I was only chosen as a target due to my being at the end of a long line of that topic of discussion, and you’d had your fill.

You’ve clearly indicated that the newsletter is a useful function in your experience, and you’ve persuaded me as well. Not that you need to. It’s your site to administer, and we’re happy you provide us the service.

Happy New Year.

Re: Update on running thesession.org

kkrell, apologies.

While the first line of my comment above was directed at you ("please read what I just wrote"), the rest of it was meant as a general comment to everyone suggesting that the newsletter be cut. Sorry I didn’t make that clearer.

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Sorry, Jeremy, I wasn’t sure how useful or helpful the newsletter is. That is why I posted my concern in the form of a question. Thank you for all your work.

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Whether you send out the session email newsletter is clearly your call. Myself, I don’t - I’ve enough ‘email newsletters’ coming in - with some sites it’s tantamount to junk mail. Of course you can unsubscribe, but some you need for the occasional nugget of useful info.

I use the MailChimp service for my own customers (at most 6 times a year) and you’d have an idea from the metrics as to how many people are ‘opening’ the mail or more critically how many have actually read or engaged with it, to the extent of following a link or contacting you directly as a result.

If that number is low, personally I’d ditch it. It’s not that hard to look up www.thesession.org

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Kilcash wrote:

"If that number is low, personally I’d ditch it. It’s not that hard to look up www.thesession.org"

Like I said, there are thousands of subscribers. The newsletter is staying. That isn’t up for debate.

However, I deliberately do *not* track openings of links in the emails. The emails are sent as plain text. I have no way of knowing which links are clicked or not. That is by design. I find it extremely invasive to have clicks tracked like that. I know that it’s normal for lots of email campaigns, and it’s part of Mailchimp’s service, but that doesn’t make it right, in my opinion. Those metrics come at too high a price.

I’ve made sure that this website doesn’t have any tracking scripts (to the extent of foregoing Google analytics) and I want to extend that to the email newsletter.

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Sure, I respect your choice.

I presume that people have subscribed over the years and this constitutes the mailing list. Others more experienced in the area of ‘email campaigns’ than I, will know better the figures around the longevity of mailing lists. There could be a lot of seed falling on barren ground, what with people simply migrating their email addresses to avoid spam etc. and forgetting to update their session.org details.

MailChimp as you’ll know removes addresses with ‘hard bounces’ and/or people who report spam. FWIW, I did a trawl of our list last year - cross referencing the mailing list with reports of who had ‘opened’ an email. I figured that addresses that weren’t in the latter reports for a year or so, were probably ‘dead’ addresses and removed them. In our case, it was about a third and my clientele would trend more towards a mature audience that would be less likely to open new addresses. Our kids sometimes seem to me to open email accounts at the drop of a hat by comparison.

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Jeremy, regarding the newsletter and in the spirit of improving communication to members who are deciding on whether or not to receive newsletter updates, what is the format and content in these updates, please?
Earlier I asked, "Does the newletter have the same information as your Twitter?", with the intent that an answer could be helpful for any members needing to know how to decide on which resource(s) to use (or subscribe).
Sorry to repeat the question but I’m still not sure how the newsletter is compiled and/or if it is different from what I have seen on your Twitter page.

Thanks again, Jeremy.

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Re: Update on running thesession.org

Yes, the newsletter contains the same information as the Twitter account, but grouped by site section and confined to one week’s activity.

So the newsletter will begin by saying…

"This many new tune settings,
That many new recordings,
So many new sessions,
However many new events, and
The number of new discussions."

…followed by a list of the titles of those tune settings, recordings, sessions, events, and discussions, with links to each one.

Whereas as the Twitter feed is updated all the time (it checks for new items every fifteen to twenty minutes), the newsletter is more like a weekly digest.

You can always subscribe for a while to try it out and then unsubscribe if you don’t like it.

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Thank you, Jeremy. That was a very clear description. Appreciate it very much.

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just found the name of a hornpipe transcribed from my lamentably inaccurate
ABC setting - the discussion has gone from
Kent UK, to Australia, USA, Scotland, and back again, finally with the answer. This is what
Session members do to help each other and
the reason we should all treasure it - nothing else comes close

Re: Update on running thesession.org

Thank you Jeremy, so much!!

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Thank you Jeremy for running this site. I have made my first ever donation, and I hope to make one every year from now on.

I prefer the email newsletter. I work full-time, and am raising a family, and pratice as much as I can, so most weeks the email newsletter is the main way I see what is going on at The Session. Also, I do not use Facebook or Twitter anymore. I feel that Facebook wants to know too much about my life, and while Twitter was fun for a while, it has become such a domain of trolls (many of which are apparently non-human bots!), that I deleted my account. Even if I were using Facebook and/or Twitter, I would still prefer the email newsletter.

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Thank you, Jeremy, for the reminder to donate, and for your determination to keep the newsletter coming. Invaluable is a huge understatement.
Thank you again for all you do, and Happy New Year to yez and all !

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Thank you all very much for the kind words (and the donations!) — it really means a lot to me.

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I have never opened an account on Twitter. But I can read all of the updates on Jeremy’s page without an account. I’m saying this because at least two members have posted that they don’t use Twitter, presumably not even for recent session updates.

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Twitter? What’s twitter? Actually, I know but I’ve never been to a twitter account directly (which just got changed because of this thread). I won’t use Facebook either. It’s not that I’m a Luddite, I spent 6 years as a unix sys admin and 2 years as a computer operator at a super-computer facility and I’m not fond of the personal security lapse potential that can occur on social media.

I just looked at the twitter page per Ben’s suggestion. That’s a lot of scrolling and image ignoring to get to the content. It’s worse on the versions of the Mac operating system that no longer have scroll bars. You can get past that by using a text-based browser such as Lynx though.

Re: Update on running thesession.org

Jeremy -
Thank you so much for keeping this site going. It has been a rich source for me for years. Of music, of thoughts both profound and idiotic, but truly a way to be a part of it all.
BTW: You’ve way under-stated the costs - your time is worth loads!

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Jeremy - can you give us an idea of how many people use the site?

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Thanks for the update Jeremy - it’s reminded me to finally get round to setting up a donation! :)